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Gary Mayor Predicts Possible Indiana Shocker

Updated 11:12 p.m.
By Alec MacGillis
As the fate of a nailbiter Indiana primary -- and possibly the course of the Democratic race -- hung on his city, Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said just now that it might take a while yet to finish counting the vote in Lake County, which includes Gary, and said tonight his city had turned out so overwhelmingly for Barack Obama that it might just be enough to close the gap with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Let me tell you, when all the votes are counted, when Gary comes in, I think you're looking at something for the world to see," Clay, an Obama supporter, said in a telephone interview from Obama's Gary headquarters. "I don't know what the numbers are yet, but Gary has absolutely produced in large numbers for Obama here."

Clay said the results were late coming in from Lake County because of the large numbers of absentee ballots that had to be counted -- about 11,000. Under local practice, all of the cartridges from voting machines in Gary and nearby East Chicago are first collected at the local airport before being driven to the county headquarters to be tallied with the results from the rest of the county, he said. He said there were no major technical problems holding up the count.

"It takes a little time. We want to be sure that every vote is counted fair and right," he said. "I just talked to the director out there and they are working like junkyard dogs to get that done as soon as possible. They are taking some time but I told them to do it right. That's what taking the time."

Gary, a predominantly African-American, post-industrial city, is considered a major stronghold for the Illinois senator, whose South Side Chicago home is just a short drive across the border. Smaller towns within Lake County are expected to break in a more balanced way between Obama and Clinton. In 2004, 188,000 voters turned out in Lake County, with 61 percent voting for John Kerry. Clay predicted that Clinton would win other towns in the county by narrow margins but that Obama would rack up huge totals in Gary, where he said some precincts reported only a handful of votes for Clinton. So closely was he following the local vote counting that he did not even know how close the statewide vote had gotten -- a four percentage difference at 10:30.

In March, Clay predicted the race would come down to Gary, telling the Northwest Indiana and Illinois Times that tonight on CNN, "They are going to point at Indiana and say Hillary Clinton is leading by one point but Gary ain't come in yet."

Clay himself was deeply involved in get out the vote efforts this afternoon, going door to door to drum up anyone who hadn't yet voted, he said. A volunteer in the Obama office in Gary said that canvassers who went out today found that in some neighborhoods almost everyone reported having already cast an absentee ballot.

"It was one of the biggest get out the vote campaigns I've seen," Clay said. "It was the biggest get out the vote campaign ever in Gary for a presidential election."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 6, 2008; 10:50 PM ET
Categories:  Primaries  
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